Feminist critic Anne K. Mellor argues that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an attack on masculine Romanticism. To what extent do you agree with Mellor's assessment?

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Mamta Jeswani 12N
Mr. Turver

Feminist critic Anne K. Mellor argues that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an attack on masculine Romanticism. To what extent do you agree with Mellor’s assessment?

I agree that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does indeed attack masculine Romanticism however not totally. Typical Romantic characteristics include heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, and rebellion against society. She attacks this through her use of language, setting, characterization, narrative structure, doubling and literary allusions.

Firstly, the characteristics of the masculine Romantic hero as displayed by Victor Frankenstein and Walton and why Shelley would want to attack these characteristics must be established. Frankenstein displays the traits of a Romantic hero in that he is seeking for something spiritual in nature that is perpetually just out of reach (as does Walton), for example, his desire to conquer death and nature because of his mother’s death. Victor is often at odds with society, and is alienated from it because of this strong desire. Also, he is entirely wrapped up in himself and his own problems and indulges, if not wallows in, his own feelings. It must be noted that the main trait of a masculine Romantic scientist would be his thirst for knowledge and leading to ambition and an appreciation of beauty is also a trait. Shelley’s motivation for highlighting these traits for attack would be partly due to the fact that her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a famous feminist writer and influenced her deeply. Also, it must be noted that her husband has these traits of a masculine Romantic hero, so she would want to highlight these characteristics to attack her husband as well. However, many of the features of the novel are reflected in her life such as the deaths of her mother and children. This solidifies the opinion that the novel is an attack on the masculine Romantic hero but also shows how she might have used the novel as therapy to deal with difficult life events as well.  

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Shelley displays the power of nature through her use of imagery, narrative structure, and setting to demonstrate that it is useless to go against nature, which Frankenstein has done and Walton intends to do, both being Romantic heroes. An example of this is when Walton describes “vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to have no end”. Firstly, as well as being a literary allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, this demonstrates the immenseness and power of nature as Walton is on one ship surrounded by miles of ice. It must also be noted ...

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